ALL A-TWITTER

“Twitter” is a free program and service that lets you send updates to anyone and everyone about what you’re doing and what’s happening. A “Twitter” update is called a “Tweet,” and it is limited to 140 characters. You can send a tweet from a computer,  smart phones like the Blackberry, iPhone, Ipaq, Palm, Samsung, etc, or from any device that connects to the web.

Is this useful in any way? Well, yes, as it turns out. Looking on the disaster or breaking news front, it reported last year’s earthquake in Los Angeles as it was happening and about ten minutes before the Associated Press sent out the news. A search engine technician in California said there were about 50,000 “tweets” of warning in the first few seconds.

On a more mundane level, you can tweet anything as long as you keep it short. Users send tweets describing something interesting they’ve come across, a news item, a web site, a personal message, or a philosophical observation. Anyone who has signed up can follow anyone else’s tweets just by tagging along. If the initiating tweeter doesn’t want to be followed, he or she can make their comments private, but this is unusual. Joy signed up with Twitter and had 25 followers in one minute.

Twitter users (should they be called “twits?”) find they can get up-to-date information from news organizations and others just by going to a web address like “twitter.com/APNews,” and clicking the “follow” link. Almost any source you can think of can be brought up on Twitter. We compared Twitter.com/TechCrunch with TechCrunch.com and much preferred the Twitter version (which has over 35,000 followers). Give “Twhirl” (Twhirl.com) a whirl if you want pop-ups on your screen when someone tweets.

Twitter has been compared to cell phones in the way it gets people connected, and several new books on twittering have recently come out. One of the latest has the lengthy title: “Twitter and the Micro Messaging Revolution, Communication, Connections and Immediacy, 140 characters at a Time.” It is available only as a download for $249 from book publisher oreilly.com. (Tim O’Reilly, the founder of O’Reilly Publishing, has more than 10,000 followers on Twitter.)

Is the future of book publishing to simply skip the print part and go directly to the Web? The huge old-line publisher Houghton-Mifflin, recently announced that it would accept no more new manuscripts for publication, until further notice. Is that what they call a straw in the wind?

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